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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Grateful

John Bradshaw - Grateful

John Bradshaw - Grateful
John Bradshaw - Grateful
TOPICS: Gratitude, Thankfulness

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. "It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our working men in every department of industry with abundant rewards".

Isn't that something? That's not the kind of language that you hear today. This was part of a declaration written by President Abraham Lincoln. It was issued on October the 20th, 1864. And it went on to say, "Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow, citizens aforesaid, that, on that occasion, they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations".

This was the president of the United States of America urging citizens to "reverently humble themselves in the dust, and... offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications" to God, or, in this case, "the Great Disposer of events". And that's how Thanksgiving was born. Of course, the story goes back much further. The Pilgrims arrived in this land in 1620, landing at Plymouth Rock, according to the historical accounts, and quickly encountering serious challenges. Forty-five of the 102 people who arrived on the Mayflower died in the winter of 1620-1621. Becoming established in the New World was extraordinarily difficult. It was brutally cold. Disease took a terrible toll. They didn't have nearly enough supplies.

William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony, wrote, "The dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible". That was a very optimistic viewpoint and offered by one who had survived the hardships. You can understand why the Plymouth colonists celebrated after their first harvest in 1621. God had graciously saved them and provided for them. They looked to God as the Giver of all good gifts, understanding what James wrote when he said, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning". That's James 1:17.

It was more than 200 years after what we might call that first Thanksgiving that Thanksgiving was officially recognized. It's now celebrated in the United States every year, initially a time of devotion to God, but now really a family event, which certainly isn't all bad. Family, food, a day off work for most, and that's Thanksgiving. The Canadian version also started as an expression of thanksgiving to God. So what are you thankful for? Really thankful for? If I were to share with you what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving, I'd have to start by saying I'm thankful for God, for family, for you, and for freedom. Let's walk through some of that. Many of the Pilgrims who came to this country were in search of religious freedom. Mind you, once they got here, they weren't especially gracious about extending that religious freedom to others.

This is from a report published by Swarthmore University, a school located just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and founded by Quakers. It's sobering reading. "The first known Quakers to arrive in Boston and challenge Puritan religious domination were Mary Fisher and Ann Austin. These two women entered Boston's harbor on the Swallow, a ship from Barbados in July of 1656. The Puritans of Boston greeted Fisher and Austin as if they carried the plague and severely brutalized them. The two were strip searched, accused of witchcraft, jailed, deprived of food, and were forced to leave Boston on the Swallow when it next left Boston eight weeks later". Eight Quakers who arrived after the two women were imprisoned and beaten. Authorities forced the captain who brought the eight Quakers to Boston to take them back to England.

In his excellent book "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul," John M. Barry wrote, "Massachusetts... imposed fines of ten shillings for attending a Quaker meeting, forty shillings for speaking at one, and forty shillings for every hour someone allowed a known Quaker to remain in his home. Quakers themselves upon first conviction, if a man, lost an ear, upon second conviction, the other ear; if a woman, severe whippings for first and second offenses; for men and women both, upon third conviction the tongue would be bored with a red-hot iron. Banishment went without saying. Then, one month after cutting off the ear of one Quaker, Massachusetts specifically legislated death for Quakers who returned after banishment".

Now, while Quakers certainly did have some interesting ideas, you can't possibly justify persecuting someone for their religious beliefs. Around the world there are many people who right now are not free to worship. In some places faith in Jesus can cost you your life. But here where we are free to worship, the Pew Research forum published an article in 2019 titled "In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace". It showed that no matter how you cut it, the number of Christians in the United States is declining. Free to worship, and more and more people are choosing not to. How thankful are you for your freedom to worship? Might not be something you think about on a regular basis. But according to the Bible, there's coming a day when religious freedom won't exist for anyone.

This is Revelation, chapter 13, starting in verse 1. The Bible says this: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast". The chapter goes on to say that a second beast would enforce worship. And keep in mind, in Bible prophecy, a beast represents a nation. You'll see that in Daniel, chapter 7, verses 17 and 23.

This is Revelation 13 and verse 15: "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed". Today I'm thankful for freedom, thankful to live in a country where freedom is valued, thankful to live in a land where I'm free to worship according to the dictates of my own conscience. I'm thankful for the Declaration of Independence, which says, "That all...are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights". If you're thankful for your freedoms today, what are you doing about those freedoms? I hope you'll utilize the freedom that God has given you and encourage others to know the Savior that offers everlasting life to all. In his first letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul wrote, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". "In every thing give thanks". Everything? How is that possible? I'll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. What are you thankful for? If your children are doing well, if you're experiencing good health, if you've come through a difficult medical situation, if you have a job, money in the bank, food in the pantry, you're thankful. And if you can check all of those boxes, then you're in rare company. In 2019, 34 million people in the United States were said to be living below the poverty line. That's 1 in every 10.5 people. The United Nations reported that in the year 2015, about 10 percent of the world's population, or 730 million people, lived on less than $2 a day. While the numbers of people in extreme poverty have been declining, the COVID-19 pandemic saw those numbers rise by as much as 150 million, according to the World Bank. I hope you can join me in saying that you're thankful for Jesus.

I've not always been a Christian. I was raised to go to church, but we weren't Bible readers by any means. We prayed, before meals, but there wasn't a focus on a personal relationship with Jesus. I know what it means to be lost. And I know what it means to discover the hope that Jesus offers and to enter into that hope and claim the gift of salvation. I know what it means to look in the mirror and see a lost sinner, and then to look at Jesus and see a Savior and to know that through faith in Him, you possess everlasting life. So I'm thankful for Jesus. I'm also extremely thankful to be able to share the gospel, as thankful as I've ever been. I've experienced the blessing of seeing people turn their lives around, to begin living with hope and purpose, to leave behind an old life that was leading them down a dead-end street, and to step into a life filled with hope and with the promise of an eternal future.

I've had that experience around the world. I've seen witch doctors come to faith in Jesus, and medical doctors and teachers and mothers and fathers and young people and elderly people, many of whom have gone on to impact still others for Christ and the gospel. And I'm thankful to be able to do what I do right here, to join with you week after week to look at the principles of the Bible. I love hearing from people whose lives are impacted through these programs, people who find hope in Jesus or grow in their faith or invite Jesus into their life for the first time. It's why we do what we do. And I want to say I'm thankful for our team here at It Is Written. God still has us on the frontlines of ministry together.

I'm thankful my team continues to get me home alive. They've had me walking with lions, hang gliding, ice skating, hey, which for me could have ended very badly, standing in the shadow of a smoking volcano. We've been in Sarajevo, Manila, Berlin, Melbourne, Brussels, Rome, Ulaanbaatar, Jerusalem, Auschwitz. We've preached the Word of God in Africa and Asia and North America, South America, and the Caribbean, and other places besides. And I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for a team that has gone the extra mile, quite literally, to bring a saving knowledge of Jesus to people that they'll never know this side of heaven. I'm thankful for our mission teams, who've gone around the world so that others can hear the good news and be touched by the love of God.

I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, a wonderful family. I live in a free country. And God has been good to me. You know, it's biblical to be thankful, and it's literally good for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, "A daily gratitude practice... has been shown to significantly increase your happiness, and your physical health". Practicing gratitude improves sleep, boosts immunity, and decreases the risk of disease. The Bible says, "A merry heart does good, like medicine". That's Proverbs 17:22. And it's hard to be joyful if you're not thankful. Thankfulness is a Christian duty. What does it say about your faith in God if you can't be thankful? Not long after Israel had been liberated from slavery in Egypt, the people began complaining in the wilderness.

Let's take a look at Numbers, chapter 21 and verse 5: "And the people spoke against God and against Moses: 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.'" That's true; they were wandering in a desert. But God had just freed them from servitude. He sent 10 miraculous plagues, a pillar of cloud, and a pillar of fire. He opened up the Red Sea. He got them safely across the ocean floor, saved them from an advancing Egyptian army. And now, instead of thanking God for all that and for water out of a rock and for the bread that was literally saving their lives, they pipe up and say that they actually hate the bread from heaven. Another translation says, "We are disgusted with this miserable food".

Unbelievable. It was then that God allowed venomous snakes to move among the people in the hope that they would turn their attention back to Him. In Jesus' day leprosy was a dreaded disease. When Jesus healed 10 leprous men, only one returned to thank Jesus, and he was a Samaritan, hated by the Jews. The nine Jews didn't thank Jesus. Just that Samaritan. And so Jesus said in Luke, chapter 17, "'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?' And He said to him, 'Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.'" How hard a heart do you have to have to be healed of leprosy and not be thankful?

Now, do you thank God daily for His blessing in your life? Try this. Make a list of things that you're thankful for. Put some time into it. And then when you pray in the morning, pray your way through that list. You'll start to realize just how much God does for you, and it'll give you plenty to pray about. When you see how much God is blessing you, how much He's doing for you, it'll strengthen your faith; it'll open your heart. It'll help you to realize just how good and how powerful God is in your life. Now, how can you be thankful in all things? In a moment, I'll tell you about a man who was grateful when most people would not have been. I'll be right back.

It's easy to be thankful to God when things are going well. You get that raise; you find that bargain; you get into that college you want to attend; the weather is good for the outdoor wedding; you got the job; the report came back from the doctor all clear. You're thankful. At Thanksgiving, when you get with family, if you do the thing where you go around the table and ask people what they're thankful for, it's the same kind of thing year after year: happy for the new baby, happy Grandma could be with us this year, thankful the job is going well. thankful that we walked away from that accident, all very real, very legitimate, no doubt about that.

Now, let's remember that while Paul wrote, "In every thing give thanks," he didn't say, for everything give thanks. You're probably not going to be that thankful that Grandma died unexpectedly at the age of 73 in apparently good health. But you're gonna be thankful that you had your mother until you were in your 50s or that Grandma was such a big part of your life. It's really hard to be thankful when you lose a job, but you can thank God for the way He has provided for you and for the experience that you gained in that job and for the friends you made. You can be thankful in all things. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose". You can be thankful that God has a way through this, or around this or out of this.

Life isn't all about getting our own way all the time. It's about allowing God to have His way and trusting Him in every circumstance. There was a power outage, and you lost everything in your freezer? You trust God. The car broke down, and you're not sure how in the world you're going to be able to afford the repair bill? You trust God. Thank Him in all things, because He is still on the throne in heaven. "[His mercies] are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness"! That's Lamentations 3, verse 23. But you don't often hear people say, "I'm thankful for this illness. I'm thankful I got sick".

But let me tell you about a friend of mine. Mike called me one day and told me that he had cancer. As he was explaining the situation, the reception faded out. I didn't catch all of what he said. What I heard him say sounded like things really weren't too serious, as far as cancer goes. At least, it sounded like a situation where he might have had a lot of hope. But when the reception sort of drifted back in, I heard him say that medicine offered him no hope at all. I asked him how he thought he was going to be. He was upbeat to the point that I had to wonder whether or not he actually got it. Now, whenever you'd ask Mike how he was doing, he'd answer by saying, "Grateful". "Mike, great to hear from you! How you doing"? "I'm grateful". "Mike, good to see you. How are things"? "I'm grateful".

Every time. Of course, his reply was just an invitation for you to ask him what he was grateful for, and he was always grateful for the goodness of God, grateful for God's blessings. Even as the cancer got worse and worse, Mike was grateful, always grateful. "You wouldn't believe how many doors this has opened up for me to share my faith," he would say. He said to his mother, "This cancer is the greatest witnessing tool I've ever had". He said, "If I mention this", meaning his cancer, "even the hardest heart is going to have a moment of sympathy for me, and that's long enough for the Holy Spirit to get through".

Anyone who called him on the phone or saw him on the street couldn't possibly have heard a happier voice or seen a more genuine smile than the one on Mike's face. Even though, even though he knew that his time was short, he'd say, "Why wouldn't I be grateful? After I die, the next thing I'm going to know is the presence of the Lord". Grateful. As time went by, it became increasingly obvious that Mike really did get it. Maybe it was the rest of us who were the ones who didn't. He was dying of a disease that he knew was going to take his life, and he was grateful. I spoke at his funeral. It was a happy occasion.

Don't wait for a certain day to be thankful to God. Don't wait for your fortunes to improve or your health to turn around. Remember that 2,000 years ago, a Man who'd been born and raised in a town you otherwise would never have heard of, died on a cross for you, the divine Son of God, bearing your sins upon His heart. He died so that you could live forever, so that whatever happens, you can have hope. I'm grateful today because my life will extend on beyond this world and into eternity because of what Jesus has done, because of the love that God has in His heart for you and me. How can you be anything but grateful for what God has done for you, for what He'll do in you, what He is doing in you, and for what He offers you as eternity draws nearer? What are you grateful for today?

Let's pray together now:

Our Father in heaven, today we thank You in all things. No matter our circumstances, You are God. You offer hope and life and eternal life. You are forgiving and gracious, and Your mercies endure forever. You're always with us. You only want the best for us. While we live in a world of sin and sadness and far-too-frequent tragedy, grow in us such trust, such faith, such love for You that we'll turn to You in faith, no matter our circumstances, and that our hearts will be full of thanks for the One who has given everything so that we might live. Friend, I encourage you today to trust God, to lean on the hope in His Word, and to continue looking in faith to Him. Keep us now, dear Lord, we pray, in Jesus' name, amen.

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